Regional districts: a 9-1-1 service cannot be withdrawn

The previous note described how only the regional director, following the will of the people he/she is supposed to represent, can initiate a withdrawal from a regional service (not the PRRD Board or staff).

There are, however, some services from which service withdrawal is impossible.

The “Regional District Service Withdrawal Regulation 398/2000” exempts 4 services from withdrawal:

  1. an emergency telephone system, including an emergency 911 system;
  2. a transit service;
  3. a regional parks service; and
  4. solid waste and recycling regulation, storage and management.

This means that, if the PRRD imposes a 911 service on Lasqueti, against the wishes of the majority of the community, then it would be impossible to withdraw from that service, even if we later found that our locally-designed solutions would work better.

When I brought the “No Withdrawal” regulation to the attention of the PRRD staff, the response from the CAO included:
Creatively thinking, I suppose there is one way out of the 911 service.  That would be to dissolve the fire department.  With no fire department it could be logically reasoned that there is no need for a 911 service.(PRRD CAO Radke, March 2015).
An alternative staff perspective was “I would argue that 9-1-1 service is a valuable service even if you don’t have a local fire/FR service(PRRD staff Thoms, Nov 2016).

These responses do not seem very logical given that the majority of residents and landowners want to keep our regional fire department service (> 90% of responses in the 2015 PRRD survey).

The inability to withdraw from 911 is part of the rationale in the E-DAC recommendation for a 5-year review after implementing the locally-developed and supported Option C dispatch system.

If, after 5 years, the community, fire department and PRRD agree that the system should transition to a 911 system, then that would be possible. Conversely, if 911 is imposed on the community, and after 5 years, we realize that our Option C would have been better, tough luck.

The Option C dispatch system was developed with effort to consult with the community and fire department, as well as to meet the requirements, in order to best meet the interests of all stakeholders. Regional districts are supposed to provide the services that the community wants. Regional districts are not supposed to force services upon communities, especially a service subject to the “No Withdrawal” regulation.